India has launched an ambitious mission to the Moon


Enlarge / India’s GSLV Mark III rocket is seen on the launch pad with its lunar payload. (credit: ISRO)

On Monday, an Indian rocket launched a spacecraft bound for the Moon from Sriharikota, a barrier island off the Bay of Bengal coast. This Chandrayaan-2 mission is the second spacecraft India has sent to the Moon, and it represents a significant effort to explore the lunar surface and its potential as a source for water ice.

The GSLV Mark III rocket lifted off Monday after an eight-day delay due to a technical issue, and the launch proceeded normally. “Today is a historical day for space and science and technology in India,” K. Sivan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organization, said after the launch. “I’m extremely happy to announce that GSLV Mark III successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 into the defined orbit.”

Although this is India’s most powerful rocket, the GSLV vehicle only has a little more than one-third the lift capacity of a Falcon 9 rocket, so the 3.85-ton payload must follow a circuitous path through space in order to gain enough energy to reach, and then settle into lunar orbit. It is due to reach orbit around the Moon in September.

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